- Posted March 1, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
It Could Have Been Me
My ex-boyfriend was good looking and charismatic. He lived hard and fast. His friends and family said he was charming, funny, and the kind of friend who would do anything for you. I saw that side of him in the beginning. It was what drew me to him, sucked me in to what would be the most painful, destructive years of my life. It was exciting and passionate at first, but after the novelty of the attraction started to wear off and the fun started to become more and more uncommon, the only thing left was a stubborn unwillingness to give up on the relationship. We were wrong for each other, but refused to admit it. Soon laughter was replaced with tears, and arguments filled our time together.
He owned a handgun. Sometimes he drove around with it in his glove compartment just because he liked the way it made him feel. He would brandish it around his friends, sometimes when he was drunk- in fact, especially when he was drunk. One time they even started shooting holes in the walls of the apartment they lived in. So very typical of him, this was an activity that showed a complete lack of rational thought. No regard for the police showing up after calls of gun shots being heard. No regard for the distinct possibility that a bullet could have ricocheted off a wall and hit something- or someone- that it shouldn't. Young, drunk, and invincible, I suppose.
A few times when we fought, he brought the gun into the discussion. Sometimes he would just fondle it in his lap, as if making a silent threat. Sometimes, though, he would actually point it at me. "How does this make you feel?" he'd ask, almost smirking. One time he told me he'd kill me if he saw me with anyone else. Another time he said he'd rather us both die than be apart. I knew he meant it. Afterward, he'd make comments about how he'd never actually do it. He did what he did best- made me feel stupid and dramatic. "Oh come on, seriously? Like I would actually use a gun on you. I was joking. Don't be ridiculous." he would say, in a mocking, condescending tone, far from comforting or sincere.
After months of inexcusable behavior that I chose to ignore and countless lies to friends and family who were begging me to get out of the clearly destructive relationship, we were together in a car, driving down a busy road. He was screaming at me and speeding. I was terrified and begging him to slow down or stop. He pulled his car over to the side of a busy road into a Burger King parking lot. He came around the car to my door, opened it, and strangled me until I was almost unconscious, slammed my head against the doorframe a few times and then dragged me out by my hair onto the cement. Then he drove away. I can't even recall what set him off, what made him mad that time. It doesn't matter though. There were witnesses who came to my aid, police cars, and ambulances. That was the last time he ever touched me.
I packed up my stuff and moved back to my home, a few states away. There was a court case, restraining orders, and hours of therapy. I slowly attempted to rebuild myself, trying to figure out what it might mean to trust someone again. A year and a half later, I was sitting at my desk and got a message asking me if the news was true, if he was really dead. I almost threw up under my desk. I left immediately and sobbed the entire way home. I sobbed in the shower, I sobbed as I collapsed on my floor and didn't move for hours. He had shot himself. There is not a day that goes by since it happened that I don't believe with every fiber of my being that if I had still been with him, the day would have come when he would have used a gun on me.
As I continue to read the details of what happened in Oscar Pistorious's home the night Reeva Steenkamp died, every detail feels more and more real. The stories of his love for guns, his uncontrolled adrenaline, his previous aggressive incidents, they all seem so important now- signs someone should have seen, taken more seriously. Rumors of testosterone and needles hit particularly close to home. My ex-boyfriend was obsessed with working out and getting stronger, even to the point of using illegal steroids himself. I’d showered in a bathroom while piles of needles lay on the counter. Like my ex-boyfriend, many people only saw what they wanted to see in Pistorious. Signs of aggression, "red flags", went unnoticed or ignored.
While the details of his case are still unfolding and his guilt yet to be determined, his friends and family insist on his character, in disbelief that he could have done this. If Reeva had a chance to speak, I wonder if she might be less shocked. Less surprised that it ended this way. They are saying she was shot through a bathroom door. I've been the girl hiding, terrified, behind the bathroom door.
It could have been me.